French woman admits to suffocating her 8 newborns

Dominique Cottrez, a 46-year-old nurse's aide is charged with manslaughter

Published July 29, 2010 4:23PM (EDT)

A French woman who admitted suffocating eight of her newborns and concealing their corpses in the garden and garage of her home has been charged with manslaughter, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Dominique Cottrez, a 46-year-old nurse's aide by profession, said that after a bad experience with her first pregnancy she never again wanted to see a doctor. She admitted delivering the babies herself and placing the corpses in plastic bags. She buried two of the newborns in the garden and hid the other bodies in the garage, prosecutor Eric Vaillant said.

The drama recalled gruesome baby killings of the past but surpassed all other known cases in France in recent years in the number of infants killed by their mother.

"She explained that she didn't want any more children and that she didn't want to see a doctor to take contraceptives," Vaillant told a news conference. "She was perfectly conscious of the fact that she was pregnant each time."

Cottrez and her husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez, were detained Wednesday after two corpses in plastic bags were discovered in a garden by the new owners of a house that had belonged to the woman's father in the town of Villers-au-Tertre in northern France. Under questioning, the woman admitted that there were six other corpses and told investigators that they were in plastic bags in the garage of her home, where they were found.

The woman is still in detention and will undergo further psychiatric testing, Vaillant said. Her husband was freed from custody and not charged, although he remains under judicial control. He claimed he knew nothing about the pregnancies of his wife.

"As for Mr. Cottrez, the sky is falling on his head he told us," the prosecutor said. "He told us that he was absolutely not aware that his wife was pregnant."

Vaillant noted that Mrs. Cottrez is quite heavy, making it easy to conceal a pregnancy. The prosecutor had said earlier in a statement that the husband could be charged with failure to report a crime and concealment of corpses.

The couple's two grown daughters, who are in their 20s, have been questioned, Vaillant said. He refused to provide further details about them or what they said.

Neighbors in this village in northern France expressed shock after learning that Cottrez had killed her newborns.

"It's revolting. It is monstrous," said Janique Kaszynski, who lives next door to the couple. "For me ... they aren't human beings. It's monstrous to have killed eight viable babies."

Police sealed the doors, gate and windows of the house where the remains of some of the babies were discovered. DNA tests are being conducted to establish for sure whether the couple are the parents, and autopsies are being conducted on the corpses to try to determine the cause of death.

The prosecutor said the bodies "don't show any sign" of injuries.

France has seen a string of cases in recent years of mothers killing their newborns and saving and hiding the corpses.

In one case, Celine Lesage was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison after acknowledging in court that she killed six of her newborns, whose corpses were found in plastic bags in her basement in northwest France.

Another Frenchwoman, Veronique Courjault, was convicted last year of murdering three of her newborn children. Her husband discovered two of the corpses in a freezer while the two were living in South Korea. During the trial psychiatrists testified that she suffered from a psychological condition known as "pregnancy denial."

Germany also has seen similar cases. In one, a woman was convicted of manslaughter in 2006 and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison for killing eight of her newborn babies and burying them in flower pots and a fish tank in the garden of her parents' home near the German-Polish border.

By Catherine Gaschka

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